Verse > Geoffrey Chaucer > Complete Poetical Works
Geoffrey Chaucer (c. 1340–1400).  The Complete Poetical Works.  1894.
The Minor Poems
VII. Anelida and Arcite
The compleynt of feire Anelida and fals Arcite.


THOU ferse god of armes, Mars the rede,
That in the frosty country called Trace,
Within thy grisly temple ful of drede
Honoured art, as patroun of that place!
With thy Bellona, Pallas, ful of grace,        5
Be present, and my song continue and gye;
At my beginning thus to thee I crye.
For hit ful depe is sonken in my minde,
With pitous herte in English for tendyte
This olde storie, in Latin which I finde,        10
Of quene Anelida and fals Arcite,
That elde, which that al can frete and byte,
As hit hath freten mony a noble storie,
Hath nigh devoured out of our memorie.
Be favorable eek, thou Polymnia,        15
On Parnaso that, with thy sustres glade,
By Elicon, not fer from Cirrea,
Singest with vois memorial in the shade,
Under the laurer which that may not fade,
And do that I my ship to haven winne;        20
First folow I Stace, and after him Corinne.
The Story.

Iamque domos patrias, &c.; Statii Thebais, xii. 519.

Whan Theseus, with werres longe and grete,
The aspre folk of Cithe had over-come,
With laurer crouned, in his char gold-bete,
Hoom to his contre-houses is y-come;—        25
For which the peple blisful, al and somme,
So cryden, that unto the sterres hit wente,
And him to honouren dide al hir entente;—
Beforn this duk, in signe of hy victorie,
The trompes come, and in his baner large        30
The image of Mars; and, in token of glorie,
Men mighten seen of tresor many a charge,
Many a bright helm, and many a spere and targe,
Many a fresh knight, and many a blisful route,
On hors, on fote, in al the felde aboute.        35
Ipolita his wyf, the hardy quene
Of Cithia, that he conquered hadde,
With Emelye, hir yonge suster shene,
Faire in a char of golde he with him ladde,
That al the ground aboute hir char she spradde        40
With brightnesse of the beautee in hir face,
Fulfild of largesse and of alle grace.
With his triumphe and laurer-crouned thus,
In al the floure of fortunes yevinge,
Lete I this noble prince Theseus        45
Toward Athenes in his wey rydinge,
And founde I wol in shortly for to bringe
The slye wey of that I gan to wryte,
Of quene Anelida and fals Arcite.
Mars, which that through his furious course of yre,        50
The olde wrath of Iuno to fulfille,
Hath set the peples hertes bothe on fyre
Of Thebes and Grece, everich other to kille
With blody speres, ne rested never stille,
But throng now her, now ther, among hem bothe,        55
That everich other slough, so wer they wrothe.
For whan Amphiorax and Tydeus,
Ipomedon, Parthonopee also
Were dede, and slayn [was] proud Campaneus,
And whan the wrecches Thebans, bretheren two,        60
Were slayn, and king Adrastus hoom a-go,
So desolat stood Thebes and so bare,
That no wight coude remedie of his care.
And whan the olde Creon gan espye
How that the blood roial was broght adoun,        65
He held the cite by his tirannye,
And did the gentils of that regioun
To been his frendes, and dwellen in the toun.
So what for love of him, and what for awe,
The noble folk wer to the toune y-drawe.        70
Among al these, Anelida the quene
Of Ermony was in that toun dwellinge,
That fairer was then is the sonne shene;
Through-out the world so gan hir name springe,
That hir to seen had every wight lykinge;        75
For, as of trouthe, is ther noon hir liche,
Of al the women in this worlde riche.
Yong was this quene, of twenty yeer of elde,
Of midel stature, and of swich fairnesse,
That nature had a Ioye hir to behelde;        80
And for to speken of hir stedfastnesse,
She passed hath Penelope and Lucresse,
And shortly, if she shal be comprehended,
In hir ne mighte no-thing been amended.
This Theban knight [Arcite] eek, sooth to seyn,        85
Was yong, and ther-with-al a lusty knight,
But he was double in love and no-thing pleyn,
And subtil in that crafte over any wight,
And with his cunning wan this lady bright;
For so ferforth he gan hir trouthe assure,        90
That she him [trust] over any creature.
What shuld I seyn? she loved Arcite so,
That, whan that he was absent any throwe,
Anon hir thoghte hir herte brast a-two;
For in hir sight to hir he bar him lowe,        95
So that she wende have al his herte y-knowe;
But he was fals; it nas but feyned chere,
As nedeth not to men such craft to lere.
But never-the-les ful mikel besinesse
Had he, er that he mighte his lady winne,        100
And swoor he wolde dyen for distresse,
Or from his wit he seyde he wolde twinne.
Alas, the whyle! for hit was routhe and sinne,
That she upon his sorowes wolde rewe,
But no-thing thenketh the fals as doth the trewe.        105
Hir fredom fond Arcite in swich manere,
That al was his that she hath, moche or lyte,
Ne to no creature made she chere
Ferther than that hit lyked to Arcite;
Ther was no lak with which he mighte hir wyte,        110
She was so ferforth yeven him to plese,
That al that lyked him, hit did hir ese.
Ther nas to hir no maner lettre y-sent
That touched love, from any maner wight,
That she ne shewed hit him, er hit was brent;        115
So pleyn she was, and did hir fulle might,
That she nil hyden nothing from hir knight,
Lest he of any untrouthe hir upbreyde;
Withouten bode his heste she obeyde.
And eek he made him Ielous over here,        120
That, what that any man had to hir seyd,
Anoon he wolde preyen hir to swere
What was that word, or make him evel apayd;
Than wende she out of hir wit have brayd;
But al this nas but sleight and flaterye,        125
Withouten love he feyned Ielosye.
And al this took she so debonerly,
That al his wille, hir thoghte hit skilful thing,
And ever the lenger loved him tenderly,
And did him honour as he were a king.        130
Hir herte was wedded to him with a ring;
So ferforth upon trouthe is hir entente,
That wher he goth, hir herte with him wente.
Whan she shal ete, on him is so hir thoght,
That wel unnethe of mete took she keep;        135
And whan that she was to hir reste broght,
On him she thoghte alwey til that she sleep;
Whan he was absent, prevely she weep;
Thus liveth fair Anelida the quene
For fals Arcite, that did hir al this tene.        140
This fals Arcite, of his new-fangelnesse,
For she to him so lowly was and trewe,
Took lesse deyntee for hir stedfastnesse,
And saw another lady, proud and newe,
And right anon he cladde him in hir hewe—        145
Wot I not whether in whyte, rede, or grene—
And falsed fair Anelida the quene.
But never-the-les, gret wonder was hit noon
Thogh he wer fals, for hit is kinde of man,
Sith Lamek was, that is so longe agoon,        150
To been in love as fals as ever he can;
He was the firste fader that began
To loven two, and was in bigamye;
And he found tentes first, but-if men lye.
This fals Arcite sumwhat moste he feyne,        155
Whan he wex fals, to covere his traitorye,
Right as an hors, that can both byte and pleyne;
For he bar hir on honde of trecherye,
And swoor he coude hir doublenesse espye,
And al was falsnes that she to him mente;        160
Thus swoor this theef, and forth his way he wente.
Alas! what herte might enduren hit,
For routhe or wo, hir sorow for to telle?
Or what man hath the cunning or the wit?
Or what man might with-in the chambre dwelle,        165
If I to him rehersen shal the helle,
That suffreth fair Anelida the quene
For fals Arcite, that did hir al this tene?
She wepeth, waileth, swowneth pitously,
To grounde deed she falleth as a stoon;        170
Al crampissheth hir limes crokedly,
She speketh as hir wit were al agoon;
Other colour then asshen hath she noon,
Noon other word she speketh moche or lyte,
But ‘mercy, cruel herte myn, Arcite!’        175
And thus endureth, til that she was so mate
That she ne hath foot on which she may sustene;
But forth languisshing ever in this estate,
Of which Arcite hath nother routhe ne tene;
His herte was elles-where, newe and grene,        180
That on hir wo ne deyneth him not to thinke,
Him rekketh never wher she flete or sinke.
His newe lady holdeth him so narowe
Up by the brydel, at the staves ende,
That every word, he dradde hit as an arowe;        185
Hir daunger made him bothe bowe and bende,
And as hir liste, made him turne or wende;
For she ne graunted him in hir livinge
No grace, why that he hath lust to singe;
But drof him forth, unnethe liste hir knowe        190
That he was servaunt to hir ladyshippe,
But lest that he wer proude, she held him lowe;
Thus serveth he, withouten fee or shipe,
She sent him now to londe, now to shippe;
And for she yaf him daunger al his fille,        195
Therfor she had him at hir owne wille.
Ensample of this, ye thrifty wimmen alle,
Take here Anelida and fals Arcite,
That for hir liste him ‘dere herte’ calle,
And was so meek, therfor he loved hir lyte;        200
The kinde of mannes herte is to delyte
In thing that straunge is, also god me save!
For what he may not gete, that wolde he have.
Now turne we to Anelida ageyn,
That pyneth day by day in languisshing;        205
But whan she saw that hir ne gat no geyn,
Upon a day, ful sorowfully weping,
She caste hir for to make a compleyning,
And with hir owne honde she gan hit wryte;
And sente hit to hir Theban knight Arcite.        210
The compleynt of Anelida the quene upon fals Arcite.


So thirleth with the poynt of remembraunce,
The swerd of sorowe, y-whet with fals plesaunce,
  Myn herte, bare of blis and blak of hewe,
That turned is in quaking al my daunce,
My suretee in a-whaped countenaunce;        215
  Sith hit availeth not for to ben trewe;
  For who-so trewest is, hit shal hir rewe,
That serveth love and doth hir observaunce
  Alwey to oon, and chaungeth for no newe.

1. I wot my-self as wel as any wight;
For I loved oon with al my herte and might
  More then my-self, an hundred thousand sythe,
And called him my hertes lyf, my knight,
And was al his, as fer as hit was right;
  And whan that he was glad, than was I blythe,        225
  And his disese was my deeth as swythe;
And he ayein his trouthe me had plight
  For ever-more, his lady me to kythe.
2. Now is he fals, alas! and causeles,
And of my wo he is so routheles,        230
  That with a worde him list not ones deyne
To bring ayein my sorowful herte in pees,
For he is caught up in a-nother lees.
  Right as him list, he laugheth at my peyne,
  And I ne can myn herte not restreyne,        235
That I ne love him alwey, never-the-les;
  And of al this I not to whom me pleyne.
3. And shal I pleyne—alas! the harde stounde—
Un-to my foo that yaf my herte a wounde,
  And yet desyreth that myn harm be more?        240
Nay, certes! ferther wol I never founde
Non other help, my sores for to sounde.
  My desteny hath shapen it ful yore;
  I wil non other medecyne ne lore;
I wil ben ay ther I was ones bounde,        245
  That I have seid, be seid for ever-more!
4. Alas! wher is become your gentilesse!
Your wordes ful of plesaunce and humblesse?
  Your observaunces in so low manere,
And your awayting and your besinesse        250
Upon me, that ye calden your maistresse,
  Your sovereyn lady in this worlde here?
  Alas! and is ther nother word ne chere
Ye vouchesauf upon myn hevinesse?
  Alas! your love, I bye hit al to dere.        255
5. Now certes, swete, thogh that ye
  Thus causeles the cause be
  Of my dedly adversitee,
Your manly reson oghte it to respyte
  To slee your frend, and namely me,        260
  That never yet in no degree
  Offended yow, as wisly he,
That al wot, out of wo my soule quyte!
  ¶ But for I shewed yow, Arcite,
  Al that men wolde to me wryte,        265
  And was so besy, yow to delyte—
My honour save—meke, kinde, and free,
  Therfor ye putte on me the wyte,
  And of me recche not a myte,
  Thogh that the swerd of sorow byte        270
My woful herte through your crueltee.
6. My swete foo,    why do ye so,    for shame?
And thenke ye    that furthered be    your name,
  To love a newe,    and been untrewe?    nay!
And putte yow    in sclaunder now    and blame,        275
And do to me    adversitee    and grame,
  That love yow most,    god, wel thou wost!    alway?
  Yet turn ayeyn,    and be al pleyn    som day,
And than shal this    that now is mis    be game,
  And al for-yive,    whyl that I live    may.        280

1. Lo! herte myn, al this is for to seyne,
As whether shal I preye or elles pleyne?
  Whiche is the wey to doon yow to be trewe?
For either mot I have yow in my cheyne,
Or with the dethe ye mot departe us tweyne;        285
  Ther ben non other mene weyes newe;
  For god so wisly on my soule rewe,
As verily ye sleen me with the peyne;
  That may ye see unfeyned of myn hewe.
2. For thus ferforth have I my deth [y]-soght,        290
My-self I mordre with my prevy thoght;
  For sorow and routhe of your unkindenesse
I wepe, I wake, I faste; al helpeth noght;
I weyve Ioy that is to speke of oght,
  I voyde companye, I flee gladnesse;        295
  Who may avaunte hir bet of hevinesse
Then I? and to this plyte have ye me broght,
  Withoute gilt; me nedeth no witnesse.
3. And sholde I preye, and weyve womanhede?
Nay! rather deth then do so foul a dede,        300
  And axe mercy gilteles! what nede?
And if I pleyne what lyf that I lede,
Yow rekketh not; that know I, out of drede;
  And if I unto yow myn othes bede
  For myn excuse, a scorn shal be my mede;        305
Your chere floureth, but hit wol not sede;
  Ful longe agoon I oghte have take hede.
4. For thogh I hadde yow to-morow ageyn,
I might as wel holde Averill fro reyn,
  As holde yow, to make yow stedfast.        310
Almighty god, of trouthe sovereyn,
Wher is the trouthe of man? who hath hit sleyn?
  Who that hem loveth shal hem fynde as fast
  As in a tempest is a roten mast.
Is that a tame best that is ay feyn        315
  To renne away, when he is leest agast?
5.  Now mercy, swete, if I misseye,
  Have I seyd oght amis, I preye?
  I not; my wit is al aweye.
I fare as doth the song of Chaunte-pleure.        320
  For now I pleyne, and now I pleye,
  I am so mased that I deye,
  Arcite hath born awey the keye
Of al my worlde, and my good aventure!
  ¶ For in this worlde nis creature        325
  Wakinge, in more discomfiture
  Then I, ne more sorow endure;
And if I slepe a furlong wey or tweye,
  Than thinketh me, that your figure
  Before me stant, clad in asure,        330
  To profren eft a newe assure
For to be trewe, and mercy me to preye.
6.  The longe night    this wonder sight    I drye,
And on the day    for this afray    I dye,
  And of al this    right noght, y-wis,    ye recche.        335
Ne never mo    myn yën two    be drye,
And to your routhe    and to your trouthe    I crye.
  But welawey!    to fer be they    to fecche;
  Thus holdeth me    my destinee    a wrecche.
But me to rede    out of this drede    or gye        340
  Ne may my wit,    so weyk is hit,    not strecche.

Than ende I thus, sith I may do no more,
I yeve hit up for now and ever-more;
  For I shal never eft putten in balaunce
My sekernes, ne lerne of love the lore.        345
But as the swan, I have herd seyd ful yore,
  Ayeins his deth shal singe in his penaunce,
  So singe I here my destiny or chaunce,
How that Arcite Anelida so sore
  Hath thirled with the poynt of remembraunce!        350
The story continued.

Whan that Anelida this woful quene
Hath of hir hande writen in this wyse,
With face deed, betwixe pale and grene,
She fel a-swowe; and sith she gan to ryse,
And unto Mars avoweth sacrifyse        355
With-in the temple, with a sorowful chere,
That shapen was as ye shal after here.


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